Arts / Rowan going full-tilt for the ‘Requiem’

Director of the Llewellyn Choir Rowan Harvey-Martin… putting the ensemble through its paces. Photo by Peter Hislop

THE formidable director of the Llewellyn Choir, Rowan Harvey-Martin, is putting the ensemble through its paces in preparation for Verdi’s superlative “Requiem”.

And the superlatives don’t stop there, with more than 180 singers on stage, her own instrumental group the Llewellyn Sinfonia performing and a star-studded line-up of soloists in soprano Sonia Anfiloff, mezzo soprano Christina Wilson, tenor Christopher Lincoln Bogg and bass baritone Jeremy Tatchell.

Three of the four singers are Canberra trained and Wilson is well-known for her many years of fine performances and teaching in Canberra.

The choir has been preparing for months both musically and on the fundraising scene. Well aware of the grand operatic stature of “The Requiem”, they needed money to put it on properly. One of the members, Michael Braund, embarked on a 2500-kilometre cycle ride to raise funds for the performance.

Many Llewellyn choristers believe this work is Verdi’s greatest, full of the same excitement and drama as his great operas, arguing that if you compare it with the great requiems of composers such as Mozart, Haydn, Berlioz and Britten, it stands out for its passion and intensity. It is, next to Mozart’s Requiem in D minor”, the most performed.

Originally composed in memory of Italian writer Alessandro Manzoni, Verdi’s “Messa da Requiem” was first performed in Milan Cathedral in May, 1874, but these days it is not considered liturgical. Verdi had to obtain special permission from the archbishop to include women in the chorus, but only on condition that they sing from behind a screen. No problem about that these days, with the Llewellyn Choir at least, women rule.

The Llewellyn Choir presents Giuseppe Verdi’s “Messa da Requiem,” at Llewellyn Hall, 7.30 pm, Saturday, May 20. Bookings to and tickets at the door.


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